Word Clouds Show Texas Political Donor Occupations

Retirees, homemakers, executives and lawyers were among the most common campaign donors in 2009 to candidates in the governor's race, according to the latest ethics filings.

Some groups clearly have their favorites, though.

To find the most-common occupations among the thousands of people who've donated to the candidates in the last year, we created word clouds, a visualization technique that boosts the size of words depending on their frequency. In this case, we clustered donor occupations listed by the campaigns based on filings with the Texas Ethics Commission.

The analysis isn't perfect, of course. We excluded donations smaller than $500 for the major candidates because state law doesn't require occupations to be listed under that amount. The data also aren't uniformly reported by campaigns (CEO, C.E.O., chief executive officer, for example, aren't clustered together), which leaves some occupations underrepresented. And, finally, the layout is created randomly by an algorithm, so it isn't consistent in each cloud.

Still, word clouds expose general trends, especially in large data sets, as this one is. Here's what we found for each candidate:

 

Kay Bailey Hutchison

The Republican senator, who had the most individual donors, shows perhaps the most equally dispersed list. The sheer number of donations is also why Hutchison's cloud is so similar to the one above, which was created from all the candidates' data combined. She and Perry, who have been in this race for a year, have many more donors than the other top candidates.

"Kay Bailey Hutchison is proud to have a strong network of supporters from all across the state who share her vision for meeting today’s challenges so Texas remains strong into the future," her campaign said in a statement.

Hutchison

Rick Perry

The Republican governor's cloud reflects the fact that his campaign didn't — or couldn't — identify the occupation of many of its donors. The phrase "best efforts" stems from a statutory provision requiring candidates to list occupation and employer for donors who give more than $500. But the law allows the campaign to list the phrase after an unsuccessful attempt to get the donor's occupation. 

Hutchison used this to attack her rival in the March primary: "'Best efforts' is an appropriate description of Rick Perry’s last nine years in office and attempts to bring transparency to government. Unfortunately, those efforts haven’t produced any results."

(It should be noted that Hutchison used the phrase "Information Requested," rather than listing a specific occupation or "best efforts," at least 80 times in the data analyzed for this story).

 

Perry's campaign responded with a jab at Hutchison for transferring campaign money collected over more than 15 years in the Senate from her federal account to her gubernatorial campaign coffer. 

"Gov. Perry is proud of the wide support he has received from Texans throughout the state. Unlike Sen. Hutchison, Gov. Perry didn't use $600,000 from a federal campaign account to bailout his campaign."

Here's what the fuss is about:

Perry

Bill White

The former Houston mayor and businessman relied heavily on fellow lawyers. His campaign criticized the methodology of excluding contributors who gave less than $500. Spokeswoman Katy Bacon noted that, even though the law doesn't require it, White lists occupation information for many low-dollar donors. The cloud with that data looks a bit different, sure, but it isn't an apples-to-apples to comparison with the other campaigns. They aren't required by law to list the information for similar donors, and often they don't. Bacon also suggested that we make a cloud with the data from White's year-long run for U.S. Senate. Here it is.

Of small donors, who make up only a fraction of White's fundraising total in the governor's race, Bacon said, "Those people are just as important to the campaign as people who give at any other amount." She added that White, who got into the race Dec. 4, didn't have time to reach a broader group of donors. "Especially with 28 days, we didn't do a lot of events-based fundraising."

White

Farouk Shami

Shami, a Democratic hair-care executive challenging White, has spent millions of his own money in the race, but raised relatively few private donations. His cloud reflects that fact: 

Shami

Debra Medina

Medina, a lesser-known Republican candidate challenging her exclusion from debates, raised more than $200,000 in 2009, relying heavily on small donations from a diverse group of supporters. 

Medina

Read more about campaign finance, and make your own searches here.

Images created with Wordle.

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